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Were very happy to offer two rare and beautiful wines from the wise and affable Peio Espil at Domaine Ilarria in Irouléguy!
Domaine Ilarria produces one of the world's most delicious and distinctive full-bodied rosés and a small quantity of this unique wine has just arrived in New York. Made from Tannat and Cabernet Franc grown on shist soils, the wine is deep and full-bodied, fairly dark in color, and is a unique accompaniment to full-flavored fish dishes like grilled tuna, charcuterie, white meats, grilled pork and lamb and the cheeses of Southwest France. Enjoy this wine as it opens up over the next three to five years. It is one of Eric Asimov's favorite rosés, we quote him from his article "A Rosé Can Bloom in Winter" - "Who wouldn’t want a rosé like Domaine Ilarria any time of the year? This wine, a shimmering, translucent garnet in summer sun or winter snow, comes from Irouléguy in the Basque country, about as far southwest as you can go in France without crossing into Spain. As fierce as rosés ever get, it’s made of tannat and cabernet franc, and it tastes like liquid rock, combined with iron and blood. I love this wine, and it was terrific recently with roasted duck and wild rice."
Beginning in 2008, Peio Espil has produced a vibrant red from 40% Tannat, 35% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon made with no additives and zero added SO2. The vines are grown in organic "no-till" vineyards on limestone soils, on slopes above the village of Irouléguy. The goal is to create living soils which bring needed micro-nutrients and natural defenses to the vine and this is evident in the bright vibrant fruit and extraordinary saline and mineral character present in all the estates wines. The Sans Soufre ages for 18 months in three and four year-old barrriques, and despite the lack of sulfur, will age beautifully for ten to fifteen years. While we have enjoyed this wine in every vintage, the 2017 is the best we have experienced. After tasting this remarkable wine with Peio last January, we asked his importer to bring some in for us - we seem to be the only store in the world that is selling it! I'll be putting many btls into my crawl-space/cellar - six cases are available.
We're very happy to offer a bit more of Ilarria's brilliant 2017 Irouléguy Blanc, made from Petit Maseng and Petit Corbu. We reprise part of Pascaline Lepeltier's description: " Peio likes the 2017 as the wine is balanced with a density he likes. At 13% of alcohol, it has a surprising density with so many layers: a very complex nose of passion fruit, chamomile, yellow plum and smoked salt, the palate is very savory with a saline quality, and more dried hawthorne and thai basil leaves. It is a salivating wine with so much to give, that you want to sip on it little by little. Enjoy it today in a large Burgundy glass or keep it for 10 years."
More from Pascaline's recent article: One of the pioneers of the rebirth of the independent domains in Irouléguy following the model of Jean Brana, Peio Espil of Domaine Ilarria has roots in Irouléguy since 1340. First dedicated to the peace corps in Africa as a civil engineer, he came back to France to take over the family farm after studying winemaking at La Tour Blanche (Sauternes) and Domaine Cauhapé with Henri Ramonteu (Jurançon). Taking over in 1987 the little family hectare of Tannat and Cabernet Franc, he cleared and replanted a unique coteau of hard triassic limestone above the historic cemetery of Irouléguy, planting Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu. Interested very early on by his reading of Masanobu Fukuoka, he implanted his philosophy, observing nature and its powers in order to farm with as little human intervention as possible. The whole 10 ha are farmed this way, and were also certified organic in 1999: no tilling, the spontaneous vegetation is mowed, in the winter ewes are coming to graze, their manure used as compost to enrich the microbiological life, which is for Peio the most important part of the health of the soils. Underground bacterias working in non-tilled soils are key partners to the vigneron to guarantee the health of the vines. All the plots are small, and surrounded by hedges and wild trees, to allow animals and insects to nest. Due to the farming, there is naturally a lower yield (25 hl/ha) giving even more density to the different cuvees, yet without clumsiness. Without a doubt, sincerely respectful farming gives wines with soulful identity, and just for this reason you should try these remarkable wines from the “site of the Landes," Ilarria.
From organically certified vineyards, 1 ha dedicated to Petit Manseng and 1 ha to Petit Courbu, permaculture-pioneer Peio Espil offers a very unique interpretation of Irouléguy Blanc as he is one of the few growing grapes on Trias limestone, a soil so hard he had to use dynamite to plant the vines. No tilling, use of ewes to graze the spontaneous vegetation and compost the soils leads to balanced yields of very concentrated grapes. Harvested almost at the same time despite the fact Petit Courbu is usually an earlier ripening grape than Petit Manseng (Petit Courbu has usually dense cluster and thinner skin berries, but not at Ilarria thanks to the farming), both see some skin maceration (6 hours or so for the Petit Courbu, 12-14 hours for the Petit Manseng) in order to extract aromatic compounds and structure, the musts are blended right away, and fermented spontaneously, with malolactic always occurring, something very rare for the region! Long fermentations are preferred for texture. A little bit of sulfites are used after the fermentation when the wine needs to be racked from inox to demi-muids from tonnellerie de l’Adour. Then the wine stays untouched on its fine lees with racking if needed. The wine is aged up to 18 months, and doesn’t need to be filtered before bottling. Sulfites are adjusted at this time for a total round 45ppm. Peio likes the 2017 as the wine is balanced with a density he likes. At 13% of alcohol, it has a surprising density with so many layers: a very complex nose of passion fruit, chamomile, yellow plum and smoked salt, the palate is very savory with a saline quality, and more dried hawthorne and thai basil leaves. It is a salivating wine with so much to give, that you want to sip on it little by little. Enjoy it today in large Burgundy glass or keep it for 10 years. For pairing, a rabbit agnolotti with dried sage or a cauliflower panna cotta with crab meat flesh and grapefruit segment. Pascaline Lepeltier.
"This is one of my favorite rosés" said Eric Asimov in the NY Times and for good reason, as this bright and beautiful blend of Cabernet Franc and Tannat is a vibrant and refreshing wine that pairs well with salads, seafood, white meats and grilled foods all year round. Domaine Ilarria practices superb organic, no-till farming with the goal of creating living soils that provide needed micro-nutrients and natural defenses to the vine. This is evident in al the estates wines which have a remarkable brightness and saline mineral character balancing the vibrant fruit. The 2019 Rosé shows a bright pink/garnet color and high-toned aromas of ripe red currant, tart cherry, rose, citrus and earth. There is luscious deep cherry, red currant and raspberry fruit on the palate which shows lovely balance with earth, mineral and citrus flavors that continue in the very long fresh and juicy finish. This full-bodied rosé is drinking beautifully now and will evolve gracefully for three to five years. Only a small quantity reaches the US, be sure to grab some of this rare treat for the summer or for the cellar. Highly recommended! David Lillie
Beginning in 2008, Peio Espil at Domaine Ilarria has produced a vibrant red from 40% Tannat, 35% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon made with no additives and zero added SO2.The vines are grown in organic"no-till" vineyards on limestone soils, on slopes above the village of Irouleguy. The goal is to create living soils which bring needed micro-nutrients and natural defenses to the vine. The wine ages for 18 months in 3 and 4 year-old barrriques, and despite the lack of sulfur, will age beautifully for ten to fifteen years. While we have enjoyed this wine in many vintages, the 2017 is the best we have experienced. Upon opening, the nose shows a definitive Cabernet character, full of crushed violets, green pepper and dark fruit but expands with air, taking on a savory walnut-bread character. On the palate, there is still that echo of black fruit, a core of ferrous, iron-like minerality and fine ripe tannins that all remind me a bit of old-school Bandol. It would doubtless improve with a decant. This is world-class sans soufre winemaking, at once precise and seemingly unshackled. Sam Ehrlich/David Lillie